Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Best laid plans

Don’t you just love it when you have a really good idea, one that will undoubtedly be helpful and inspiring for people but there’s a small technical glitch that throws a spanner in the works? Well, I’ve discovered a bit of a glitch with this particular monthly feature on inspirational gardens and the people behind them.

The first one I choose, the wonderful Veddw garden in South Wales, was an easy choice; great garden, lots of accessible photographs and it proved to be very popular. During my interview with Anne Wareham, I asked her to pick the next Inspirational Garden. She’s picked an absolute cracker, trouble is this garden isn’t so accessible. It’s a private garden, one that is open to viewing by arrangement. There is no website, very few photographs online and I’ve not had any luck getting hold of the owner when I’ve phoned! With Veddw, there were so many photographs, I felt like I’d been there. Not the case with this garden.

Gardening flesh

I’ve seen enough photographs to be thoroughly intrigued by Anne’s choice but not enough pictures that make me feel I could do it justice writing about it. So there’s only one thing for it – I need to go and visit it and see for myself how a garden has been constructed using just two main plants. There are other plants in the garden but two plants dominate the design.

Not that I’m a complete tease or anything, but I’m not going to reveal which garden Anne chose just yet. I will give you a clue, though; it’s in Swansea. As soon as I’ve visited it, I will tell you all about it.

Something a little closer to home

Grass Maze – Cambridge Botanic Garden

Instead, I’m going to show you a garden that’s close to my heart. Having moved to Cambridge last year, I do love to hang out at the Botanic garden. The photograph above shows part of their dry garden. Although Cambridge has lots of open green spaces (one of the many reasons I love living here) my favourite is definitely the botanic garden. On sunny afternoons, when I’m finished designing for the day, I pop over with my camera, treat my self to a nice big slice of cake and then wander around the garden taking photos for my plant design album.Cambridge University Botanic Garden, like most botanic gardens, it is more plant focused than design orientated, there are some areas that have been well-designed and a lot of thought has gone into the planting schemes. The Botanic garden is situated on a 40 acre site, right in the city centre, though it doesn’t feel that large. It’s a great place to visit if you are looking for plants and trees to inspire you for your garden. I particularly love how they use grasses in the herbaceous borders. There is a nice mix of traditional and modern influences throughout the garden.

Stipa calamagrostis – Cambridge botanic garden

Where do you suggest?

I’d like to visit lots of great gardens this year. I’m looking forward to doing this. I used to visit gardens all the time when I first qualified, so I’ve done the usual ones like Sissinghurst, Hestercombe and Hidcote. Veddw, of course, is already on my list for the summer. I’d also love to visit less well known gardens. What other suggestions do you have? Do email me or leave a comment if you have a suggestion. Doesn’t just need to be UK gardens; I’m happy to go further afield in search of glorious gardens.

A view of Cambridge

For those that aren’t familiar with Cambridge here are some of my favourite views.

‘The Backs’ Cambridge

Roll on summer…

King’s College Cambridge


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Rachel Mathews
Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 30 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

    6 replies to "Inspirational Gardens part 2 (sort of!)"

    • Mary

      Hi Rachel,

      Here’s my recommendation for a garden visit — it’s a private garden I absolutely adore — I can smell rosemary and thyme just thinking about it… A Garden in Lucca (

      We rented the guest house on the property several years ago in early October. The owners were kind enough to let us “help” with their grape harvest. It was my first visit to Italy and I fell in love with the people, the architecture, and (of course) the gardens.

      If you do visit (and even if you don’t) you might enjoy reading the book written about the property and garden by owner Paul Gervais: A Garden in Lucca: Finding Paradise in Tuscany.


    • Rachel Mathews

      Hi Mary

      Thank you, that’s a great suggestion – it’s been added to my list! It’s been quite a few years since I was last in Italy admiring their gardens, so I’m long overdue for another trip there.

      Another great book on Italian gardens is by Sophie Bajard & Raffaello Bencini – Villas and Gardens of Tuscany – my last visit there was planned round that entire book.

      We also did a little detour to Villa Vicchiomaggio where they filmed Much Ado About Nothing – but alas wasn’t open to the public whilst we were there… not that that stopped me from taking a quick peak through the railings ;o)

    • Jenny

      You are so fortunate to live in Cambridge. We were there last November for a reunion and went to the Botanical Garden for the first time. It was rather chilly but we did enjoy our visit and hope to be back there in the summer, some day. My pick for a garden visit would be Gresgarth Hall. We visited on one of their once a month open days. It was wonderful-

      So many ideas. I am really enjoying your tutorials. Thanks.
      .-= Jenny´s last blog ..BEEP, BEEP =-.

    • Rachel Mathews

      Thanks Jenny. I do feel lucky to be living here, the novelty certainly hasn’t worn off yet!

      Great garden suggestion, thank you. Think I’d be hard pushed to do a better guide to it than you have though! Lovely photographs.

    • el akbar

      Hi Rachel,
      do you have tropical garden in England?
      I’m the new comer here from Indonesia, in here tropics are all around, maybe you can give me diffrent view about tropical garden tips should be.
      I really enjoy your writings.
      El Akbar

      • Rachel Mathews


        We do have some in Cornwall but nothing quite like Indonesia! As far as design goes, it doesn’t matter where in the World you are as the design principles will be the same it’s just the construction materials and plants that’s different. So all the design tips you’ll find here will still help you. If you want extra tips and advice then sign up to the design tips free guide (at the top of most pages).

        Best wishes


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